During Small Business Week, May 5-11, we celebrate entrepreneurs across the country for their willingness to take a risk and follow a dream. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, we have plenty to celebrate: more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.1
Like all businesses, small businesses face occupational safety and health challenges, no matter the industry. But several studies show that the smaller a business is, the more likely its workers are to experience injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.2 ,3, 4 ,5 Small businesses engage in fewer occupational safety and health activities than large businesses.6 They tend to have fewer resources—like time, money, and people—to devote to safety and health. When an injury or illness occurs in a small shop, it may appear to be a minor problem because incidents at that individual workplace are infrequent. However, when looked at across an industry, that one incident may be part of a larger group of injuries that indicates an industry-wide problem. The benefits of peer networks, like finding out about industry best-practices, are lost when managers run their business in isolation, a situation that is all-too-common among smaller firms.
While these challenges are daunting, they can be overcome. Many organizations in the community help small businesses as they seek to improve their safety and health. Chambers of commerce, local health departments, workers’ compensation insurers, independent safety consultants, occupational health providers, and others can bridge the information gap between OSH experts and the small business owners. They can provide tools and resources that help businesses overcome the liabilities that come with being small. Communities can provide assistance to small businesses in several ways, including:
- Talking to neighborhood small businesses about their interest in holding a safety and health fair for their workers.
- Inviting small businesses to safety and wellness presentations.
- Providing small businesses with information about who they can reach out to if they have a safety or health concern.
- Offering time and cost effective programs customizable to individual small businesses.
A great way to celebrate small businesses is to support employers so they can ensure their workers are healthy and safe. Healthy and safe workers help create healthy and safe communities!
For more information:
- U.S. Small Business Administration. https://www.sba.gov/national-small-business-week
- Buckley JP, Sestito JP, Hunting KL . Fatalities in the landscape and horticultural services industry, 1992–2001. Am J Ind Med 51:701–713.
- Mendeloff J, Nelson C, Ko K, Haviland A . Small business and workplace fatality risk: an exploratory analysis. Technical Report TR-371-ICJ. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
- Morse T, Dillon C, Weber J, Warren N, Bruneau H, Fu R . Prevalence and reporting of occupational illness by company size: population trends and regulatory implications. Am J Ind Med 45:361–370.
- Page K . Blood on the coal: the effect of organizational size and differentiation on coal mine accidents. J Safety Res 40:85–95.
- Sinclair R, Cunningham TR, & Schulte P. . A model for occupational safety and health intervention in small businesses. American Journal of Industrial Medicine.